BC Releases Wolf Management Plan
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
April 22, 2014
The British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has released the Province’s wolf management plan.
The plan fully recognizes that the fundamental goal of wolf management in British Columbia, as with all other provincial game species, is to maintain self-sustaining populations throughout the species’ range. The plan proposes a ‘two-zone management strategy’ approach:
• In most areas, wolf management will be concerned with ensuring that wolves continue to serve their ecological role as a top predator. Sustainable hunting and trapping opportunities will use controls on harvest through specified season lengths and bag limits.
• In areas of livestock depredation or wildlife populations threatened by wolf predation (e.g., mountain caribou) are a concern, the plan commits government to responsibly helping stakeholders, ranchers and First Nations manage the impacts of expanding wolf populations. In these areas, detailed implementation plans would be developed before any actions are undertaken.
The plan previously underwent a public consultation and over 2,500 comments were received. All submissions were carefully reviewed and helped inform and improve the final plan. The results of the consultation confirm there are strongly differing beliefs and values on the management of wolf populations and re-affirmed the importance that government make balanced decisions on the basis of sound science.
The wolf management plan, like other species management plans, summarizes the best available scientific information on the biology and threats to the species and informs the development of a management framework. It sets goals and objectives, and recommends approaches appropriate for species or ecosystem conservation.
The plan indicates wolf populations are likely stable or increasing throughout the province and are not considered an ‘at-risk’ species. The current wolf population estimate is approximately 8,500 which is similar to an earlier estimate of 8,100 in 1991.
The last wolf management plan was prepared in 1979, and the new plan provides a substantive update in the science guiding the conservation and management of wolves.
The B.C. government is committed to ensuring sustainable wildlife populations and healthy predator-prey relationships throughout the province. The government is also committed to helping stakeholders, ranchers and First Nations manage the impacts of wolves on livestock and protecting endangered species.
The objectives of the B.C. wolf management are:
• to ensure a self-sustaining population throughout the species’ range that fulfills the role of wolves as a top predator in B.C.’s diverse ecosystems;
• to provide opportunities for economic, cultural, and recreational uses of wolves consistent with Ministry program plans;
• to minimize impacts on livestock caused by wolves in a manner that does not jeopardize conservation objectives; and
• to manage specific packs or individuals where predation is likely preventing the recovery of wildlife populations threatened by wolf predation.
Provincial policy supports the use of predator control to protect livestock and species at risk. Predator control to enhance ungulate populations for hunting is not supported by policy.
Hunting and trapping of wolves is allowed in British Columbia, with a three-wolf bag limit and no quotas. More than 1,200 wolves are harvested in the province annually.
In addition, "Landowners who encounter wolves that are harassing livestock can hunt or trap the wolves on their property. Any wolves killed or injured must be reported and remain the property of the Crown. Landowners can also permit others to hunt or trap on their property if there is an open hunting season, and permits can be sought from the Province if the season is closed."
The plan notes, "predation by wolves is the most important proximate factor limiting caribou recovery across Canada. The ultimate reason that caribou have declined is likely habitat fragmentation and loss, but proximate factors such as predation continue to limit population recovery even where suitable habitat is extensive and secure, relative to the size of the caribou herd."